Calamities and Candlepins: Elizabeth McCracken’s Bowlaway

Elizabeth McCracken
(HarperCollins, 2019, $27.99, 384 pp.)

It is a sign of the imagination and quality of Elizabeth McCracken’s new novel, Bowlaway, that after reading it one finds oneself spontaneously researching the history of bowling. Halfway through an article about how, in medieval Germany, the sport was a religious ritual representing the toppling of sin and paganism (the pins) by Christianity (the ball), you’ll look up and realize where you are—probably a short drive from the nearest alley, should you wish to topple some pagans yourself. What could be a clearer indication of the novel’s magnetic, mind-occupying power?